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Kemp Is Losing It for Magic

Flabby forward has dropped at least 25 pounds with help of exercise program as he attempts to salvage career.

January 19, 2003|From Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — Shawn Kemp's attitude has been fine. His altitude is another matter.

The strenuous exercise regimen Kemp performs two or three times a day is designed to salvage his career, but it's sapping his season with the Orlando Magic.

At 300 pounds, Kemp is hard-pressed to get off the floor, let alone remind anyone of his high-flying "Reign Man" days in Seattle nearly a decade ago. Recently, his midrange jumper has lost its accuracy, perhaps due to dead legs.

"He looks fatigued right now and is kind of playing tired," coach Doc Rivers said. "He's done triple times the work of anybody else, and it might be catching up to him. I've tried to tell him to slow down, but he says he needs to keep doing it.

"But at some point you have to wonder if he's reaching the point of diminishing returns."

Cardiovascular workouts after every practice, sometimes even after games, has helped Kemp drop at least 25 pounds since he arrived in Orlando in September. But after all that exercise, it appears the 6-foot-10 center simply doesn't have much energy left for the daily grind of the NBA.

"I've been struggling lately," Kemp said after a postgame workout that followed 26 minutes of banging with Detroit's Ben Wallace. "I started off playing pretty good. You really just want to stay consistent, that's what I'm trying to do."

At midweek, Kemp was averaging 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds. But since a stretch in late December where he scored in double-figures three straight games, he has averaged 5.3 points -- shooting just 39.7% -- and 4.4 rebounds.

Kemp, 33, is committed to re-establishing himself as a player after coming close to ruin through his appetites for food and vice.

He burst into the league in 1989 as a raw but powerful 19-year-old. He was named to the All-NBA second team in 1994, '95 and '96 -- averaging 18.8 points and 11 rebounds for the Sonics in those seasons -- and was selected as an All-Star six times.

But in the 1998-99 lockout, his weight ballooned and he developed bad work habits, which soon forced a trade from Cleveland to Portland.

Things got worse there. Not only was playing time hard to find because of the Trail Blazers' deep roster, but he also got caught up in drugs. He left the team late in his first season, in April 2001, to enter a drug-rehab program. He returned for the next season but was suspended five games in February for failing to comply with his post-treatment responsibilities.

Add to that a Sports Illustrated article revealing his illegitimate children, and Kemp's story became both a punch line and cautionary tale.

That's why the public's reaction was mixed between shock and curiosity when the image-conscious Magic, gambling to shore up their perennially weak front line, signed Kemp.

It helped that he came to Orlando as a relative bargain. Knowing that he wasn't in Portland's plans yet also aware that the $46.5 million left on his contract made him close to untradeable, Kemp reportedly agreed to forfeit more than $25 million he was owed so the Blazers could waive him. Weeks later, he signed with Orlando for $1.07 million -- the minimum for a player with at least 10 years of service.

Kemp done everything the team has asked.

"His professionalism is off the charts," Rivers said.

Kemp is watching his diet and working every day with Orlando strength and conditioning coach Mick Smith.

Twenty minutes on the Stairmaster, 30 minutes on an elliptical trainer, 24 minutes on an exercise bike -- all part of his daily routines.

Smith said Kemp needs to drop another 6% of his body fat, but he's on target to reach his goal of being in shape by the second week of March.

"He still has a ways to go," Smith said.

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